Jan. 12, 2010, NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, spotted its first never-before-seen near-Earth asteroid, the first of hundreds it is expected to find during its mission to map the whole sky in infrared light. There is no danger of the newly discovered asteroid hitting Earth.
The near-Earth object, designated 2010 AB78, was discovered by WISE Jan. 12. The mission’s sophisticated software picked out the moving object against a background of stationary star. New Scientist reported that 15 more near earth asteroids have been found by WISE.
WISE is expected to find about 100,000 previously unknown asteroids in our main asteroid belt, a rocky ring of debris between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It will also spot hundreds of previously unseen near-Earth objects.
Near-Earth objects are asteroids and comets with orbits that pass relatively close to Earth’s path around the sun. In extremely rare cases of an impact, the objects may cause damage to Earth’s surface. An asteroid about 10 kilometers (6 miles) wide is thought to have plunged into our planet 65 million years ago, triggering a global disaster and killing off the dinosaurs.
Besides the Asteroids, I am looking forward to WISE finding Brown dwarf stars.
Brown dwarf’s are interesting because there could be a brown dwarf (or several) and its solar system that are closer than the nearest known star (Proxima Centauri).
The mission will scan the sky one-and-a-half times by October. At that point, the frozen coolant needed to chill its instruments will be depleted.